By Corinne Murdock |
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Marco Lopez has ties to a massive foreign corruption scandal involving a global construction conglomerate Odebrecht and its bribes to politicians globally. According to an investigative report from Arizona Agenda relying on case information from anti-corruption news organization Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad, Lopez’s company, Intermestic Partners/International Strategic Solutions, received $35,000 from Odebrecht for his several months of work on former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2012 campaign. Ultimately, Odebrecht shelled out $800 million through its secretive business department tasked with bribing all levels of government officials across the world, the “Division of Structured Operations,” earning a minimum criminal fine of $4.5 billion in 2016.
Peña Nieto’s former campaign lieutenant, Emilio Lozoya, connected Lopez’s $35,000 to a $3 million bribe from an Odebrecht shell company: campaign money for public works contracts. Lozoya’s shell business, Latin American Asia Capital Holdings, received the $3 million from Odebrecht before redistributing tens of thousands to Lopez.
According to Lozoya, the invoices that Lopez and others submitted were bogus. Lopez claimed to have worked on something called the “Colombia Project.” Lopez refused to speak with the Arizona Agenda about his ties with Odebrecht and the Peña Nieto corruption.
By all accounts, Lopez would qualify as a career politician. As a teen, Lopez served as a congressional page for former Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor. In his early 20s, Lopez worked on Al Gore’s presidential campaign. In 2001, Lopez was elected mayor of his hometown, Nogales, Arizona, becoming one of the youngest mayors in American history at the time.
Another two years after his election, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano appointed Lopez to be the executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. Lopez took on a Latin American policy advisory position within Napolitano’s cabinet. After three years, Napolitano promoted Lopez to serve as her senior advisor on foreign affairs and trade. Napolitano again promoted Lopez in 2008 to direct the Arizona Department of Commerce.
It appears Napolitano didn’t forget Lopez when the White House came to bring her into the Obama Administration in 2008. Not long after Napolitano’s appointment as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Lopez was appointed chief of staff for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). He remained in that position until 2011, before focusing his attention on business ventures of his own. That year, Lopez established the Phoenix-based business and investment advisory group linked to the Odebrecht scandal, Intermestic Partners. Additionally, Lopez began to serve as senior advisor to Forbes’ 2010-2013 richest person in the world: Carlos Slim Helu.
For a decade, Lopez abstained from taking on a political office. Then in March of last year, Lopez announced his candidacy for Arizona governor — the first to do so.
After the report broke, Lopez denied his involvement. He claimed the report was inaccurate because it was heavy with “innuendo, racial stereotypes and falsehoods.”
Indicating any knowledge of Odebrecht’s bribing operations could be a deadly maneuver. Odebrecht’s former vice president, Henrique Valladares, was found dead in his Rio de Janeiro apartment in September 2019, shortly after entering a plea bargain with state prosecutors to reveal who was in on the company’s bribing system. Valladares was one of the key informants in the case. According to state police, the cause of his death was “undetermined.”
Odebrecht was implicated following a smaller Brazilian anti-bribery investigation codenamed “Lava Jato,” or “Car Wash,” that began with the arrest of Brazil’s former national oil company executive, Nestor Cerveró.